The Inner World of Collaboration with Birute Regine

All the woes of today remind me of the sixties, when issues of racism, sexism, war, degradation of the environment exploded into main stream consciousness. What is common to these woes is the use of power as power over others, creating a society based on domination. Like a spiral dance where you return to the same place in a new way, we return to the same issues today in a more polarized environment. But along with the uncertainty and lack of unity, an opportunity presents itself to move in a new, more evolved direction, away from a domination approach.

Iron Butterflies have chosen another path and redefine the meaning of power as power with and for others, evoking the world of working together. Largely off the radar screen, Iron Butterflies are midwifing a new era of cooperation and collaboration.

Rod Lehman of the Fetzer Institute described true collaboration in this way: “The inner life of collaboration is about states of mind and spirit that are open: open to self-examination, open to growth, open to trust, and open to mutual action. The relationships that arise from such radical openness become vehicles for co-creation.”

This profound openness necessarily means people confront vulnerabilities, their own and others, such as fear, uncertainty, confusion. In a domination-based culture, this openness, this vulnerability is regarded as only a weakness, as an opportunity to exploit or diminish another in an effort to elevate oneself. But there is another side to vulnerability, as an opportunity for a depth of connection with yourself and others that is not otherwise possible, an opportunity to co-create.

Being able to allow, accept and address vulnerabilities in the work place actually help promote a more collaborative work environment. First, they level the playing field and break down hierarchy because they establish mutuality. We are all vulnerable: we all die, we all want to be loved, we all want to contribute. Second, people connected to their vulnerability are more likely to collaborate because they recognize their interdependence and interconnection. If you are not connected to yourself as a vulnerable human being (which means you are in great denial!) then you don’t need to collaborate because you are caught up in an illusion of independence and think you don’t need anyone. You just bark orders and try to control people.

Collaboration is a much more complex way of working together than command and control. It requires lots of relational intelligence, a clear sense of self, a sensitivity to other, a vision for a shared interest. And you have to be strong enough to be vulnerable. Are you participating in the movement of transforming our society from one based on domination to collaboration? What difficulties/benefits do you experience in collaborating?

Birute Regine, EdD, earned her doctorate in human development at Harvard and has spent 25 years as a psychologist in private practice and now works as an executive/life coach, facilitator, speaker and author. She previously co-authored the critically acclaimed “The Soul at Work: Embracing Complexity Science for Business Success” with her husband, noted scientist Roger Lewin.

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